For those who want to turn their PennApps hack into a successful business, a new initiative might provide the support they are looking for.
Partly inspired by Princeton University’s Tiger Labs and Stanford University’s StartX, the inaugurated PennApps Accelerator will be an eight-week program with focused workshops and brainstorming sessions, hacking space, volunteer software testers, industry mentorship and a $1,000 stipend.
“The idea for the accelerator grew out of PennApps [in the spring],” said Wharton and Engineering sophomore Ian Sibner, one of the organizers for PennApps Accelerator. “A lot of really great teams demoed, but we noticed that there was a great disparity between the quality of our [computer science] projects and the number of startups coming out of the school.”
Building off the extensive sponsors from the hackathon, PennApps Accelerator will also connect students with venture capitalists, engineers and experienced entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia area and beyond.
“They will act as mentors to the teams of the Accelerator, providing guidance on everything from marketing to database management,” Sibner said.
The application, open to all students and not just to PennApps participants, will go live on Thursday at noon on their website and last until Sept. 24. The five best teams will be selected for the fall 2013 program.
This new initiative receives positive regards from student entrepreneurs in the Engineering school.
“Most entrepreneurial support on campus, like the Wharton Venture Initiation Program, is not technical enough and does not have a lot of computer science people involved,” said Engineering and Wharton senior Pulak Mittal, former PennApps director and the founder of Emerald Exam.
2013 Wharton graduate Fred Wang built Pagevamp — a service allowing users to update their websites via Facebook — during the fall 2012 PennApps hackathon and continued working on it after the event. However, he was not in the majority.
“The general mentality going into PennApps is, ‘Let’s build something cool,‘” Wang said. “I think that’s great and we see lots of really innovative products coming out of it, but more often than not people ditch their idea after a while.”
Mittal added that “currently about 10% people are interested in continuing their project into a business, but with PennApps Accelerator, hopefully that number will be higher.”
Commenting on his own experience of building Pagevamp and problems he faced before, Wang saw this as a great support for Penn’s entrepreneurial atmosphere.
“Entrepreneurship at Penn has come a long way since we met our freshman year at Penn,” he said. “My prediction is we’re going to see a lot stronger startups and entrepreneurs emerge, especially now that we have a great product breeding ground with PennApps and a great serious entrepreneurship community with Dorm Room Fund on campus. Something like ‘PennApps Accelerator’ could really help bridge the gap between the two.”
Sibner also touched on the collaborative opportunities in PennApps Accelerator. “Perhaps even more important is the fact that they will have other technically-minded entrepreneurs — their fellows in the accelerator — with which to discuss their successes, failures, strategies and ideas for creating their business.”
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